Relationship Makers and Breakers
“First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” vs. 24
The Results of Anger
When I was about 9 or 10 years old, there came a time when, as all siblings do, my brothers and I got into a small squabble. It was probably one of those really important and pressing matters, like, “you’re breathing my air” or “you walked in my path” or “you took my last rubber band during our rubber band fights, or something really important like that. I’m sure my dad told us to stop a few times, especially when we started wrestling a bit, but of course, we didn’t hear it, we’ll we selectively didn’t hear it. So here we are arguing and wrestling in our living room and my dad, my mild mannered, dad who rarely gets mad, and even more rarely shows emotions as a whole, has had enough. The next thing we hear, and it stops us all dead in our tracks, is this huge bang and along with that my dad scream, “Will you kids stop your fighting!” So what was the bang? My dad as he is screaming, punches the door, and…he puts this bog hole in it. Yeah! My dad. We not only stopped fighting immediately, but now we are not sure what to do, cause we are scared and we wanted to laugh at the same time. My dad, my dad has never hit us, never spanked us, never hurts a fly, puts his fist through the door.
Here’s the crazy thing. No one has ever fixed that door. It’s like a reminder to us of that event. I started dating Claudia and when she comes home to meet my family and we walk through the house, there is the hole and I have to explain to her what happened and why its there. I had to explain to my daughters why there is a hole in the door that used to be my brothers room. Yeah, it’s still there today.
Anger can be a good thing but it can also be pretty destructive. Understanding it can be a bit confusing too. Jesus touches on the correlation of anger and relationships in Matthew chapter 5 and that is what we are going to look at this morning. If you are able, please stand as we read Matthew 5:21-24.
Read Passage – Matthew 5:21-24
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5 starts with the Beatitudes which we looked at and then Jesus gave a few examples of how to live those beatitudes out. Last week Jesus set the stage for us by explaining that he came to fulfill the law and not abolish it. Jesus now launches into a new section of instructions and explanations about the Old Testament laws and how we deal with them in life. In fact, this section can be called the antithesis section because they all start the same way; verse 21a:
“You have heard that it was said…” vs. 21a
Jesus starts each of the next six sections the same way with “You’ve heard that it was said…” and then quotes an Old Testament law. There is actually a formula that happens in these sections:
O.T. law + the current trend or interpretation à Jesus explanation and fulfillment
Jesus affirms an Old Testament law and then describes the current trend and interpretation of that law and then, this is the good part, he gives us his explanation of what that is to look like in our life. He does that by using an authoritative pronouncement in the phrase, “But I say to you…”
So in our passage today Jesus talks about the OT law “you shall not murder” found in Deut. 5:17. The current trend or interpretation during Jesus time of that law is this was to be true for the average Israelite but within the religious leaders they were not being held accountable to this. Their theory was they were exempt from it because it was their job to uphold holiness and to keep control of the people. The real reason was to keep themselves in power so they would “do away” with anyone that threatened their power or control. Case in point: Jesus. Jesus comes along now in our passage and gives us what that law looks like because of the work Jesus would do on the cross. We will look at that more in a minute.
What Are The Odds
Before we get to Jesus interpretation and fulfillment, don’t tune out. Verse 21 b reads:
“‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” Vs. 21b
You might say what does this have to do with me? I am not nor will I ever be a murderer. In fact, what are the odds any of us will be a murderer? Probably somewhat slim. Many people might even read right past this section thinking, check, I’ve got that one covered, not going to happen with me. But here is where Jesus bring new enlightenment to these words and with him, and with God for that matter, he looks at it much differently and much deeper. Because with Jesus, fulfillment of this law is more than just the action of killing another human being.; it’s about how we handle our feelings, thoughts, and actions working in cooperation with each other. In a Godly sense, we can all be a relationship killer and Jesus is all about relationship.
Relationship Makers and Breakers
The core of Jesus explanation and fulfillment comes with a focus on anger. Would you agree with me that there is good and bad anger? Sure, there is. Good anger is the kind that comes at the injustices of the world and the desire to see our world become a better place. Good anger the4lls us there is a problem and helps us set boundaries and limitations so that people are affirmed and treated properly and so that God’s ideals and values are upheld. God displays anger, Jesus showed anger when he flipped the tables over in the temple, etc. There are good reasons to be angry at times. But there is also bad anger. Anger that is unproductive, destructive and leads to un-health. The ultimate bad anger is displayed in murder. Jesus challenges the religious leaders and anyone who reads this passage, us, to truly put aside the bad anger and to be people of relationship. So we are challenged with this question:
Are you a relationship maker or breaker?
Let’s see the insight Jesus gives us on this in three different aspects.
- Feelings and Emotions
The first aspect comes in how we deal with our feelings and emotions. Jesus says in verse 22a:
“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” vs. 22a
Jesus starts by touching on the surface level of anger which is our feelings and emotions. It’s our initial reaction to things and how we respond to situations. Feelings can be right but sometimes feelings can mislead us or need to be adjusted when we discover more of the facts behind a situation. Feelings and emotions are the sensations. Good feelings are happiness, joy, peace, and contentment. Bad feelings are anger, frustration, discontent and maliciousness. Many times our feelings and emotions are that initial response to something. Solomon wrote in Ecc. 7:9:
“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” Ecc. 7:9
You may have experienced this during your week sometime. I did.
Ex. The senseless killings we saw in Santa Barbara. That whole situation was horrific and senseless and such a tragedy. But here is where I got angry this week. Every time you turned on the news there was the picture of the murdered and that video tape he made the day before. That stirred up in me some anger because I felt that played right into the murderers plan. I wasn’t angry at him per se but at the media for the way they kept showing him and the video and that lack of coverage on the victims. That whole situation should lead us to want to see some change in our world for those that are struggling with horrible psychological issues but it should also challenge us to challenge the media and challenge them to cover these tragedies the right way.
Jesus is warning us that if we let those emotions and feeling govern our lives, we are subject to judgment. Others will look at us as foolish and immature. You know, you see someone fly off the handle at some meaningless situation and you judge them that way. We can also be judged in our world today by thousands. The interent and phone videos are exposing the crazy way people respond to situations and they can cost you your job, your marriage, or nay of a number of other things.
- Mind and Thoughts
The second aspect Jesus touches on is the mind and thoughts when it comes to anger. Verse 22b:
“Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court.” vs. 22b
This actually jumps to the next level in us. The word “Raca” that Jesus uses here is more literally translated “empty headed.” This is more than just a thought, this is actual name calling and revealing what is in your heart. Remember Jesus said it is not what goes into a person that is bad but what comes out because it reveals who we really are inside. When we put others down with our words, like calling them empty headed, we are elevating ourselves and putting others down. Paul touches on this too in Romans 12:3:
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Rom. 12:3
This happens often. We see the actions of others and can’t believe that they are acting and reacting in certain ways. We judge that and sometimes fall into the trap of calling them names. Now I know this is a touchy but we probably see this in our world in driving.
Ex. My experience in the post office last week. One employee judging another employee’s actions and they get into a shouting match right in the lobby of the post office. They start calling each other names and it gets really uncomfortable for all those in line.
Now notice what Jesus says happens when we respond with bad anger in these situations; it can lead to us having legal actions against us (libel). So the anger has worked from our feelings and emotions to our words.
- Heart and Soul
Then, the third aspect comes when it works into our heart and soul. Jesus continues in verse 22c:
“And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” vs. 22c
The anger has now worked its way through our entire being and is now at the core of who we are. If you recall a statement I quoted last week from Joseph Stowell from the book Fan The Flame where he said; “The heart is the place to which God looks.” Jesus brings this out in the term he quotes when he says, “You fool.” This is a term of contempt that was meant to strip away a person’s identity and wrongly make that person into something they are not. What we do when we take this attitude is play the role of God and we are condemning them. We are saying they are the lowest of the low. We are literally saying that they can “go to hell.” We should never put ourselves in God’s place and in his role. We can be angry at a person’s actions, and we can be frustrated with the way they are acting or treating us but we should never supposed to play the role of God.
- Again, not to bring up a sore subject but this is exactly what we saw this week in Santa Barbara. A young man felt he had been wronged. His anger built and built and he never dealt with all those ill feeling and thoughts and they made intot he core of who he was and lead to the terrible scene we saw played out. My heart and prayers go out to the families of those innocent people who were killed.
Bad anger lead to us ultimately condemning people instead of what God is looking for from us is to build relationships and encourage others. We are called to sincere love as we read from 1 Peter 1:22:
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” 1 Peter 1:22
Jesus warns us not to condemn and Peter tells us that God’s plan for us is sincere love. Not approval of bad behavior, not overlooking wrongs, but sincere love that recognizes that God has a plan for every person, a good plan for them that they find the abundant life in him, that they may have life abundantly.
The Escalating Demise
This section has a pattern to it. It’s escalates in us by moving from our feelings and emotions, mind and thoughts, and then to our heart and soul. It also has an escalating demise.
The demise; judged by others, to taken to court, to the danger of the fire of hell.
With each step anger takes deeper into our being, the consequences become more dire and severe. This is the danger that anger brings to us when we let it rule our life. By the way, just a fun fact, notice that the core of the word danger is anger. J
Clearing The Slate
So what are we to do.? Jesus answers that too, verse 24:
“First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” vs. 24
The answer challenges us to make a decision about whether we are a relationship maker or breaker. Remember the story of my dad and the door. We have never fixed that door. If you were to go to my parent’s house you would be able to see it. That is reflective of what happens when we are relationship breaker. We put dents and holes in people’s lives. Sometimes those dents and holes are never fixed. They are permanent. But they don’t have to be. We can clear the slate. It’s the process of reconciling relationships and starting over.
That leads us to communion that we are celebrating today. God calls us to clear the slate every time we come to this table. We need to clear the slate with God. We can’t really come clean with God if we are holding grudges and judging others and have that attitude in our heart.